My go-to breakfast used to be something along the lines of some raisin and bran cereal with skim milk, or two pieces of whole-grain toast with some olive oil “butter” spread and a thin layer of peanut butter.
Now I look back at these poor excuses for a meal and laugh! Little did I know that I was setting myself up for a blood sugar spike and subsequent plummet. Of course, this was leading to poor energy levels and usually intense hunger and a desperate grab for whatever junky food was handy, or even breaking into my lunch bag early. I was also consuming any number of allergens and inflammatory disease-causing agents (wheat, sugar, pasteurized dairy, hydrogenated fats and commercial peanut butter). Yikes!
If your breakfast looks similar to what I’ve described, you’re probably not feeling your best, or functioning optimally either. In this article we are going to explore ways to turn that around, starting right away! I don’t want you to spend another day feeling underfueled and out of whack simply because you’re relying on mainstream “healthy” breakfast foods.
The truth is, your average “wholesome” breakfast is anything but. Like I said, we are led to believe that some variation on whole grains and a little dairy are the only things that fit into the “breakfast” category. But be sure to limit the portion sizes, because otherwise you’ll eat too many calories! And don’t choose the full-fat milk, because that stuff goes directly to clog your arteries! (These last two statements are said sarcastically, since they are falsities perpetuated by mainstream nutrition information, which we are constantly discovering is based on outdated information and isn’t in our best interest).
So if we can’t eat the usual breakfast shown on the commercials, what do we eat? I’m going to share with you six key upgrades that you can make to your breakfast routine, so that you can feel energized, balanced and nourished in the morning and make better food decisions throughout your day.
These simple changes will help you break the pattern you’ve been setting for yourself with those meager breakfasts. No more clamoring for vending machine junk at 10:30 a.m., or reaching for another cup of coffee shortly after lunch.
Unlike the carbohydrate-heavy meals I described above, which put you on a blood sugar (and mood, and energy) rollercoaster, including protein in your breakfast helps create a more steady burn. I’m not talking about the puny amount found in some breakfast cereal or granola bar, I mean a good dose. Aim for 15–25 grams of protein in your morning meal.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to add a high-quality, cold-processed, grass-fed whey protein powder to whatever you’re already eating — mix it into oatmeal, for example. The ideal option, though, is to consume some whole-food protein, such as eggs, meat or fish. Eggs are already in the normal breakfast repertoire, and boiling up a few to pack along in the morning takes only a few minutes. As an alternative to eggs, meat such as ham or turkey slices can be a tasty option, or turn to smoked or canned wild-caught salmon. These protein-rich foods are sure to keep you going for longer and feeling energized.
Have you gotten over your fear of fat yet? I know, it was hammered into us for decades, but now we are discovering that many fats are not only healthy, but critical for our well-being. Plus they are a great energy source to power you through your day.
Again, we will start with the easiest strategy. Simply put half an avocado next to your usual breakfast. This will already make a world of difference to your mood, satisfaction and energy level throughout the morning.
Other options are full-fat yogurt (if you tolerate dairy), or coconut oil in your coffee. A handful of nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, doesn’t hurt either.
Kick up the veggies
As you can tell, my typical breakfast back in the day included only limited food groups, namely grains and dairy. If you’re eating three meals per day, excluding vegetables from breakfast means you’re cutting off one-third of the potential for consuming these vitamin and antioxidant-rich wonderfoods. I encourage you to add some vegetables to your breakfast, in whatever form you enjoy them!
This life-changing habit will help your body feel so much more satisfied and energized, because not only will it be receiving calories in the morning, but it will also get a dose of vitamins, minerals and plant-based phytonutrients. Cravings for unhealthy foods happen because the body has not met its nutrient quotas for the day. Help prevent those mid-morning and afternoon hankerings by packing in some veggies first thing!
Some easy options include grape tomatoes, cucumber sticks, or a small green salad with some olive oil. Better yet, scramble some eggs in coconut oil with a double-handful of chopped up broccoli and green onions, and hit points 1, 2 and 3 in one go! That is truly a breakfast of champions.
Pack in some probiotics
Now we’re really talking. One of the most valuable nutrition lessons I’ve learned since I dropped the crappy-breakfast habit is to include some fermented or cultured food with each meal. These helpful critters aid digestion and help extract nutrients from the other foods you eat. They also provide a mood boost and bolster the immune system. What’s not to love?
Try having a couple of tablespoons of kefir with breakfast, or garnish a savory dish (like those veggie-scrambled eggs) with a little sauerkraut. If you can’t hack it with the whole foods, invest in a good-quality probiotic supplement and swallow it with your morning green tea.
Prepare the night before
I’ve already mentioned boiling eggs in advance — this is a great way to have an easy breakfast on hand. But if you’ve been reading this article and saying, “I don’t want to eat salmon or sauerkraut first thing in the morning!” I have some good news for you.
It’s possible to have a decently nourishing breakfast that still fits that TV commercial picture! It’s called soaked oatmeal. This is very different from the instant oats that come in the little packet, or even the ones you boil on the stove for a few minutes. I’m talking about thick, unprocessed, whole oats (gluten free, of course!). The key is to soak them overnight in just enough water to cover them, plus a splash of an acid like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. This helps to make the nutrition within the oats more accessible and digestible, and brings oats into the acceptable realm for a nourishing breakfast.
In the morning, rinse the oats with some water and strain, then mix in fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, coconut oil and protein powder. This tasty mixture can be eaten warm or cold.
If all else fails, make a smoothie
When even our best efforts to make a good breakfast get pushed aside by the busyness of everyday life, a smoothie is a great way to check off many of these upgraded breakfast boxes. While liquid nourishment may not be the best way to stay satisfied until lunchtime, it’s still a decent option to get some nutrition in.
Start with a good-quality protein powder, and add some fat like olive oil, red palm oil or full fat yogurt. Next the vegetables — greens are the easiest to use in a smoothie. Here’s a tip: freeze vegetables first — they blend up much better. Probiotics can go in your smoothie too — just add a few tablespoons of kefir! See how this is a little different from the typical fruit-only smoothie, which is heavy on sugars. The added nutritional elements will help you feel more satisfied and enable you to maintain good energy levels for at least a few hours after consumption.
Breakfast can make or break your day — try these tricks to set yourself up for success!
Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.